D-day secrecy

Discussion in 'Sappers' started by metellus cimber, Jun 5, 2013.

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  1. metellus cimber

    metellus cimber Old-Salt Book Reviewer

    I am still amazed at how successfully the D-Day landings were kept secret. I doubt that it would be so easy today. Too many tweets.

    On 6 June 1944 my mother was a nurse in Leicester Royal Infirmary. There were military wards in the Infirmary and she was on one of them. Even so, no-one who did not need to know expected D-Day to happen when it did. The D-Day landings had been kept secret but some of the convalescent soldiers had inside information. Nevertheless they never discussed it, even among themselves.

    On 6 June there was total silence as the day nurses filed in. Usually there was a lot of banter and shouts of "left-right-left!" as the nurses marched in. But today the "boys" had managed to commandeer headphones from all over the hospital and were all eagerly monitoring the radio news. There were no headphones left in the civilian wards. It was clear that something was up, although for a long time the soldiers refused to say what it was. Within 24 hours the first casualties started arriving, by which time the cat was out of the bag.
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  2. It seems unbelievable that the Germans didn't work it all out, even despite the success of Op Fortitude.

    I'm not an expert on the air war, but I wonder why the Germans couldn't even manage to get daily recce sorties over one or two of the shipping concentrations in order to detect when the fleet started moving. Doubly so, when you consider that most of the fleets put to sea on the 4th, and then had to abort.
  3. metellus makes a very good point. Today, it would be impossible because of the pervasive nature of personal comms, satellite imagery and a larger proportion of legal residents with, er, indifferent loyalties to the Crown.

    There were incidents which threatened the integrity of Fortitude, for instance when the dummy landing craft moored in Dover broke loose in bad weather and were 'bobbing around the harbour like ping-pong balls'.

    In an earlier gaffe, a routine signal was sent in clear to the US from HQ 82nd Airborne at Banbury concerning a paternity case involving one of its men. Trouble was, as an elite unit the whereabouts of the 82nd was a key combat indicator and the Fortitude plan included faking their presence in Italy. Oops!

    One of the factors that seems to have concentrated to the success of Fortitude was the terrible relationships between competing parts of the German int gathering structure. Once one organisation had convinced themselves of the Allied ORBAT fed to them through Fortitude, to make corrections and adjust their opinions was tantamount to admitting incompetence to their rivals.

    Battle of Wits by David Owen (Leo Cooper) has a bit on Fortitude, but a lot more on the greater deception picture. Highly recommended!
  4. One of the aspects of D Day history I find fascinating is tracking down the accounts of Germans from the night of the 5th/6th, describing how they came to realise the invasion was on - e.g. Von Luck (I think) wandering outside his CP with a brew to look up at the nightly bomber stream, only to see that this time they were towing gliders....

    Another was a chap who was stagging on at another HQ, whose log book starts to fill up in the early evening with odd "incident" reports from around the Corps area; by midnight, the rate of reports was so high that he could barely keep up with writing them down - and then all the phones lines were cut. I often wonder - as a fellow "stagger-on" - whether he then thought "thank fcuk; now its quiet and I can get a brew", or "oh fcuk, this must mean the apocalypse has arrived"...! (I guess it depends upon the rank of the flaggie...).
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  5. Did any of you chaps watch that progaramme last night about the reality of Saving Private Ryan. Enthralling programme and well worth watching on catch-up if you haven't seen it. Loved the bit about the sniper in the tower. Great vantage point but doomed to die!
  6. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    The Germans tried, but British radar coverage and standing fighter patrols resulted in a pretty well 100% success rate in shooting down German reconnaissance aircraft. From memory, they didn't manage a single daytime PR sortie over London for 3 years.

    It was only the Me 262 and its high speed that enabled the Germans to restart routine PR - and that was too late for D-Day.

  7. And the Arado 234, which because of its range allowed them to continue taking pictures of the UK right up to March 45
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  8. I think the "we will shoot/hang you if you tell secrets to the enemy" may have had a bearing on people keeping their traps shut about things they knew/found out.
  9. hotel_california

    hotel_california LE Book Reviewer

    Let's not forget the Counter-Intelligence contribution by arresting and or turning every German spy in England.
  10. A lady I used to know was a junior nurse at that time. She said a few of the military patients were quarantined in wards with 'BP' marked on the doors. No-one knew what BP meant, rumours circulated that it was bubonic plague.

    Much later they learned that it had meant Briefed Personnel.
  11. My aunt worked at Bletchley Park, I don't know what they said to them when the war finished, but to the day she died (only a few years ago) we couldn't get a word out of her as to what she did there
  12. I heard a few years ago about a number of BPs who had disobeyed orders and gone on operations and been captured. One of them knew he talked in his sleep and made other POWs keep him awake...
  13. Which channel?
  14. Don't wish to sound rude but why is this in the Sapper forum?
  15. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    The irony of the want of German air reconnaissance was that they never saw the dummy tanks, landing craft etc.; likewise the sheer volume of the UK radio traffic (legit and fake) was so vast that they gave up trying to sort it out, partly because they were getting such excellent int from their spies in England. Who of course were sending (or having sent for them) what the Double Cross committee wanted the Germans to believe. A German map later captured in Italy showed all the UK troop dispositions with all the fake ones carefully plotted. Loads of books about it all from the 1970s onward, most recently by Ben Macintyre.